Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Smithwick: “the evidence keeps pointing back to the desire of the IRA to acquire information as to how the British Security Services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall Police Station…”

Thu 5 December 2013, 6:34pm

As the findings of the Smithwick Tribunal report [RTÉ-hosted 22mb pdf] continue to be digested, it’s worth recalling the reported concerns of “members of the PIRA” in May last year.

The Smithwick Tribunal is becoming a “significant issue” among republicans who are concerned it is uncovering information on past murders, the tribunal has been told.

According to a précis of intelligence information gleaned by the PSNI within the last year, and aired at the tribunal this morning, “members of the PIRA are anxious the tribunal complete its work as soon as possible”.

The Provisional IRA interaction with the Smithwick Tribunal was, we were told by the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, TD, “facilitated” by Sinn Féin.

As Gerry Moriarty suggested in yesterday’s Irish Times, here’s one of the key findings from the Tribunal report [p426]

The preponderance of evidence before me points to Chief Superintendent Harry Breen having been the specific target of this operation. In this regard, I rely on the intelligence received in the immediate wake of the murders, the evidence given by retired Detective Sergeant Seán Gethins and on the fact that the vast majority of the evidence suggests that the intention was to abduct and interrogate these officers. In the latter respect, the evidence keeps pointing back to the desire of the IRA to acquire information as to how the British Security Services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall Police Station in May 1987. [added emphasis]

In his initial response to the publication, the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, claimed

Justice Smithwick accepts much of the evidence given by the former IRA volunteers but on the basis of evidence provided by others, including the PSNI and former informers, concludes that while the Tribunal ‘has not uncovered direct evidence of collusion’ that ‘on balance of probability’ some form of collusion occurred. [added emphasis]

Well, up to a point Lord Copper…  Chapter 22 of the report deals with the “Account Provided by Former Personnel of the Provisional IRA”.  As Smithwick points out in the opening line of that chapter

In this chapter, I summarise and address material which is not, strictly speaking, evidence.

Not included in the chapter, but noted earlier (pp86-7) is the transcript of a radio report of the PIRA’s contemporary claim of responsibility.

The IRA say that the two top officers were shot dead after their car came to one of a number of checkpoints which the IRA claims they were operating on Monday. They also say that the policemen acted suspiciously and attempted to drive off. Then, according to the IRA statement, the IRA volunteers feared their own lives could be in danger and took what they call preventative action to prevent the RUC men’s escape.”

Chapter 22 details the interaction between the former Provisional IRA members and the Tribunal.

In the first instance, former personnel who were involved in the operation provided a written document, entitled ‘Final Approved Note’, setting out their version of how the operation was mounted.

[Approved by whom? - Ed] Indeed.

The Tribunal subsequently sought clarification, by way of written questions, of certain aspects of this account. Written responses were provided and, at that point, the Tribunal sought a meeting between members of its legal team and some of the former members of the Provisional IRA. After some negotiation as to the modalities, a meeting ultimately occurred in April 2011. This was a face to face meeting between three members of the Tribunal’s legal team and three former members of the Provisional IRA, in the presence of intermediaries. [added emphasis]

Despite the Tribunal’s “best endeavours to secure the attendance of [a live] witness [to be] tested by cross – examination”, “in January 2013 [Smithwick] was definitively informed that no such evidence would be provided.”  As Smithwick notes (pp398-9)

I think it important that the version of events provided by the former members of the Provisional IRA be assessed against the other evidence heard by the Tribunal. However, it ought to be borne in mind that this written record of the exchange between the Tribunal and the former members is not best evidence in circumstances where it has not been given orally and tested under cross – examination.

The chapter details the contents of the “Final Approved Note”, and the subsequent questions and answers at the meeting.  This new account details the surveillance operation, and the interception [p402]

The car was tracked en route to the Edenappa Road. The Active Service Unit in the Jonesboro area had already been alerted and had moved into place, setting up a checkpoint at a pre – picked spot along the Edenappa Road.

The ASU intercepted the red Cavalier. The two male occupants were challenged to step out of the car with their hands up.

The car was put into reverse and attempted to escape. At that point both RUC Detectives were executed. The instructions to the ASU were to intercept the car, and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped.

Then Smithwick deals with “Matters Corroborative of the Version of Events Provided by Former Members of the Provisional IRA” (pp413-418).

Those are the points he accepts.  He questions other aspects of the PIRA account, before noting the “Areas of Concern in Respect of Account Provided by Former IRA Personnel” (pp420-423).

Back, though, to that key conclusion (p426-427)

23.1.8 The evidence of surveillance, together with the frequency of Bob Buchanan’s visits south of the border, make it plausible that the IRA could have mounted an operation to ambush Bob Buchanan on the basis of an established pattern of travel.

23.1.9 However, this brings me to my first major stumbling block in accepting that this is what in fact occurred. The former personnel of the IRA say that not even Bob Buchanan was the specific target of this operation, but rather that his car, which was known to have been occupied by RUC Officers and, on one occasion, to have been occupied by Harry Breen, was the target. I cannot accept this. The preponderance of evidence before me points to Chief Superintendent Harry Breen having been the specific target of this operation. In this regard, I rely on the intelligence received in the immediate wake of the murders, the evidence given by retired Detective Sergeant Seán Gethins and on the fact that the vast majority of the evidence suggests that the intention was to abduct and interrogate these officers. In the latter respect, the evidence keeps pointing back to the desire of the IRA to acquire information as to how the British Security Services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall Police Station in May 1987.

23.1.10 Of the video footage that I have viewed in this Tribunal, two images stick in my mind. The first is the scene on the Edenappa Road; the second is the image of Chief Superintendent Breen, standing erect in his uniform before the media, pointing out the weapons that had been retrieved in the Loughgall ambush. The evidence continually draws me back to the conclusion that Harry Breen was the target of this operation. Despite their denials in this regard, much of what the Tribunal was told by the former personnel of the Provisional IRA also tends to support this fact. Great significance was attached by them to the alleged sighting of Harry Breen in Bob Buchanan’s car after the summer of 1988, and there was, in the wake of the murder, triumphalism in relation to the fact that the Provisional IRA had killed the officer who had appeared in that photograph “etched in every Republican’s mind.” [added emphasis throughout]

That final quote comes from one of the former Provisional IRA members at the meeting with counsel for the Tribunal, and two intermediaries.  As Smithwick notes (pp420-421)

It is stated in the Final Approved Note that the spotting of Harry Breen in the red Cavalier during the initial surveillance phase in respect of the car was “for us, a significant breakthrough.” The Final Approved Note continued that “Harry Breen had a high media exposure following the ambush in Loughgall in 1987. We had video footage from news bulletins and photos from the press.

He was, for obvious reasons, a target we had particular interest in.” Moreover, I note that during the course of the face to face interview between three former personnel of the IRA and the Tribunal’s legal team, in the course of the introduction provided by one of the former personnel, a copy of the An Phoblacht newspaper published in the aftermath of the shooting was produced. One of the former volunteers described the photograph of Harry Breen on the front page of that newspaper as an “image […] etched on every republican’s mind.”  Ultimately, the Tribunal was told, however, that notwithstanding all this, Harry Breen was not the target of the operation. Rather, any occupants of the red Cavalier were the targets of the operation.

There is one particular point which is worth considering.  the PIRA’s “Final Approved Note” states (p402)

The instructions to the ASU were to intercept the car, and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped.

That was confirmed during the face-to-face meeting with former PIRA members and the Tribunal’s legal team, along with two intermediaries (p411).

22.4.15 The former personnel confirmed that the intention of the operation was to “take away and question the occupants” of the car.

And here is where it may get interesting (p411 cont).

When asked why that changed, the former personnel requested a short break in the meeting; when the meeting resumed, they explained that the car had reversed and the two RUC officers had tried to escape. [added emphasis]

22.4.16 It was stated that Harry Breen was shot in the car and had not got out of the car with a handkerchief as had been suggested elsewhere: “Buchanan reversed the car and both men died instantly in gunfire.” If Harry Breen’s body was out of the car, this was because he had removed by the Active Service Unit in order to search his body.

As Smithwick later adds (p422)

22.7.5 Thirdly, there was a clear contradiction between the answers given by the former personnel in the course of the face to face interview on the one hand, and the evidence before me of the autopsy performed on Harry Breen on the other, in relation to how Harry Breen was shot. The autopsy conclusion, which notes that the fatal shot was fired in the back of Harry Breen’s head, is simply inconsistent with the former members’ account that he was shot while still sitting in the car. Their version also does not account for the presence of a white handkerchief on the road near his body. I have to say that I think I must accept and prefer the un–contradicted autopsy evidence in this respect.

And the independent eye-witness account (p73).

“when they [the people in the red car] came in and they obviously realised they were in a trap, they went to reverse, they tried to reverse the car, and there is a wall of moss on it just there, and they must have realised they couldn’t, they wouldn’t make it, and the passenger, he got out and he came around the front of the car and he put his hands up and they shot him and he fell to the ground.

[…]

And then the other man, I think – the driver – I’m not sure whether he opened the door to get out, or whether they went down and opened the door, but they shot him behind the wheel, to my knowledge.  He was – I think he was just maybe getting out of the car.”

Back to Smithwick (p422)

22.7.6 This undermines to some extent the credibility of the version of events provided by the former personnel of the Provisional IRA. As noted by Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan, “it requires explanation.” However, I am cognisant of the fact that there may be some political sensitivity in their admitting to this Tribunal that Harry Breen was shot when he had, as one eyewitness described it, gotten out of the car with his arms raised, or that he was subsequently shot at close range in the back of the head. [added emphasis]

Perhaps… Evidently no information was acquired by the Provisional IRA “as to how the British Security Services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall Police Station…”

But, given the allegations around that particular incident in Loughgall in May 1987, and the full findings of the Smithwick Tribunal, it may be that another part of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams’ recent controversial comments on Newsweek Newstalk is the more significant.  From the BBC report

“When you have that type of laissez-faire disregard for their own security, by both An Garda Síochána in relation to these two officers, and more importantly these officers themselves – here they were in the heart of south Armagh in the middle of a very, very severe conflict at that time, and seemed to think that they were immune from attack by the IRA, and, tragically, as it turned out for them that was not the case.

“When you have that type of failure to protect the RUC operatives in the middle of a war then what happened happens.

I’m sure the same thing has happened with IRA volunteers who were killed, that it was not necessarily intelligence or inside information but simply that they made a mistake. This has happened tragically in all conflicts.” [added emphasis]

[Move along, now, nothing to see here... - Ed]

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Comments (64)

  1. Alias (profile) says:

    “…it may be that another part of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams’ recent controversial comments on Newsweek Newstalk is the more significant.”

    Good spot, and very interesting that Mr Adams would try to steer Thomas Murphy’s and other PIRA members’ suspicions about Loughgall away from agents within their own ranks.

    It also seems very odd that Smithwick would steer the enquiry away from Stakeknife (where Ian Hurst was trying to steer it) given that PIRA’s Internal Security Unit would have been central to any internal investigation about how the Loughgall operation was compromised and given that Stakeknife was central to the Internal Security Unit. Smithwick expresses the view that the aim was a PIRA internal investigation of a compromised operation so it is very hard to understand why he had no interest in the workings of PIRA’s ISU. Was Slab Murphy holding his own ‘rogue’ investigation, presumably not trusting Adams’ man in the ISU?

    There are more questions than answers…

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  2. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Alias,

    I know I usually give you a bye on all this conspiracy stuff but I going to bump up the standard required on this since the material is forensic and well judged. So rule is, you have evidence rather than a folk belief to support your opinion.

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  3. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    If indeed Chief Superintendent Harry Breen was standing outside the vehicle, arms raised in a clear attempt to surrender without offering resistance when he was then shot in the back of the head by the IRA unit, which interpretation of the available evidence (and lack thereof) Smithwick has chosen to favour then it contradicts completely his determination that the primary purpose of the IRA operation was to take C.S. Breen alive in order that he might be interrogated in an attempt to glean any information he might hold on the advance intelligence held by the British war machine regarding the IRA Loughall operation.

    But he cannot have it both ways.

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  4. Dec (profile) says:

    Sorry, Mick but this thread is one entire conspiracy theory so why single out Alias?

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  5. Dec (profile) says:

    Rory

    The more you read the report the more you will scratch your head. Best to smile and nod your head at the theory being put forward above. One example is the bits of Peter Keeley’s evidence Smithwick appears to accept or reject seemingly arbitrarily. Though the bit about Kevin Myers is funny.

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  6. Alias (profile) says:

    Well, Mick, it is still a conspiracy theory that members of the Gardai conspired with PIRA in this case or that Loughgall operation was compromised by agents or that PIRA intended to kidnap rather than kill the occupants of the car. Established facts are in short supply.

    That said, my post was more observation that ‘conspiracy stuff.’ Do you not think it odd that Smithwick would not enquire into the role of the ISU given that it is the role of the ISU to carry out the investigation he thinks was being carried out by the proposed kidnap and interrogation of the two RUC officers? He didn’t touch the untouchable Stakeknife, being very quick to bounce Hurst out of it for inconsistencies in his evidence that were far less than he overlooked in the PIRA members evidence. Excuse anyone?

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  7. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Rory Carr
    If as is shown in the evidence the officers tried to reverse the car and escape, the IRA team at that point logically gave up on the aim of capture and opened fire.
    After which they decided to finish what they had started and executed Breen when he tried to surrender.
    That is a perfectly reasonable explanation of how it happened in the heat of the moment.

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  8. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    I just want some working out Dec, like Judge Smithwick has?

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  9. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    It may be reasonable, Babyface, but, if C.S. Breen was clearly indicating a willingness to surrender to the IRA, as one “witness” has testified, then, if it was the primary purpose of the IRA unit to take him alive for interrogation, as Smithwick insists, then it contradicts that conclusion and indicates Smithwick’s willingness to tailor spurious (not so forensic as Mick insists) inferences to suit whatever conclusion he is determined to draw.

    A most unhappy and unreliable report altogether, but such a conclusion will have to wait a respectable interval before future historians condemn it for what it so patently is.

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  10. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    There are things they (both sides) don’t want us to know and which we’ll never be told about, but one things certain it was a dirty murky war.

    For example what does Denis Donaldson’s journal contain which the Gardai want kept from the public?

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  11. Gopher (profile) says:

    The Enniskillen bombing was a few months after Loughgall and has more connection to it than Harry Breen. Reverse engineered narratives are the order of the day in Ireland.

    Forensics don’t lie nor usually does common sense nor operational procedure (ref two army corporals) A large body of armed terrorists could not afford to dwell when the SAS were in existence and given the level of paranoia that we now know existed I would imagine speed coupled with intensity were the salient features of the episode.

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  12. paulG (profile) says:

    The IRA got a mole into the Guards or managed to turn one or two Garda. Hardly a surprise, let alone worthy of a Tribunal.

    That the Garda were (often illegally) colluding with the Btitish Forces, who were known to be in the habit of murdering, not only Irish people in the North, but Irish citizens in the Republic, and then surprise, surprise failing to investigate, let alone prosecute anybody.

    Now that’s worthy of a tribunal or Two.

    Instead we get the pantomime of cowards, tripping over each other to apologise to anybody who’ll listen, for the contents of a failed sham of a report, to attempt to discredit those who stood up to oppression, while they were busy picking the pockets of the poor.

    War may provide the last refuge for the scoundrel, but there is a lower class of character which can be found hiding away from the fighting but very close to the money, biding it’s time and plotting it’s reinvention as the moral superior.

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  13. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Rory, it’s the former IRA who direct the judges attention in that direction. Here’s the Final Approved Note’:

    “The instructions to the ASU were to intercept the car, and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped.”

    Okay, it doesn’t say ‘interrogation’, but what other reasonable assumption is there? Arrest them to be executed somewhere else?

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  14. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Rory, it’s the former IRA who direct the judges attention in that direction. Here’s the Final Approved Note’:

    “The instructions to the ASU were to intercept the car, and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped.”

    Okay, it doesn’t say ‘ interrogation’, but what other reasonable assumption is there? Arrest them to be executed somewhere else?

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  15. Gopher (profile) says:

    Mick lets be clear “arrest” meant torture and the logistics of finding suitable location to do so undisturbed with minimal risk. Politically it would invariably have to be in Northern Ireland and politically the consequences would have been seismic if two bodies turned up showing signs of torture. Nope the way of it just went to script.

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  16. Barney (profile) says:

    Apparently they are building a bacofoil factory in North Louth

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  17. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Here’s Vincent Browne on Tuesday night: http://goo.gl/DroQ3b

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  18. Dec (profile) says:

    Mick

    Here’s the issue. If the details of the actual killings contained in the ‘Final Approved Note’ is at odds with the forensics , ‘undermining the credibility’ in Smithwick speak, why is Smithwick so readily prepared to accept other aspects of the evidence (the ASU’s intentions towards Breen) as true?

    What did he say of Myers, blindly following a story ‘he wanted to believe’…

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  19. Alias (profile) says:

    “…the IRA team at that point logically gave up on the aim of capture and opened fire.”

    What is logical about silencing those who wanted to speak to? Dead men tell no tales, so it is not a particularly logical thing to do when you are going to such elaborate lenghts to get the tales of living men.

    I would they are dead because someone didn’t want any tales told but I’m not planning to spend the next 11 years on enquiry into the matter just end up none the wiser….

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  20. Mark (profile) says:

    There wouldn’t have been an inquiry if Toby Harnden hadn’t written ” Bandit Country ” . Weeks after it was published , Trimble called for an inquiry based on the book which claimed amoung other things that after the shooting of Breen , the PIRA took a briefcase from the boot of his car which they believed held information on Loughgall .

    When the book came out , the consensus was that Harnden had managed to persuade some Republicans to go on record . He referenced interviews with Volunteer M and Volunteer G in his book . Harnden agreed to be interviewed for Smithwick but withdrew his evidence last year . It depends on who you listen to . In an interview , former RUC D.I Derek Martindale claimed he was the target of the attack because he headed up the anti racketeering division …..

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  21. John Ó Néill (profile) says:

    All of which is pretty much irrelevant. The tribunal had a brief to examine allegations of collusion by a Garda in Dundalk in the deaths, the “our friend” of Keeley/Fulton. Not only was he found not to be a credible witness, like the only other ‘intelligence’ source to be properly tested, Ingram/Hurst, but the whole idea of a visual confirmation was needed by the IRA was introduced as the theory to explain away the obvious flaws. If the IRA knew the car, even knew Breen was known to have used it, knew it was in Dundalk (which they had under observation) and the routes it used, there is no need for a visual confirmation as it fills in a non-existent gap.
    That isn’t to say that the other evidence about Garda activity might not be true (some has already gone through the courts). But in this case, again, the clear problem with so many processes now, legal or simply narrative, is that these ‘intelligence sources’ which have become so central to the widely believed narratives about the last 40 odd years, just turn vampire-like and fall apart when exposed to daylight. Which raises huge problems for anyone trying to make sense of the past.

    C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre

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  22. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Rory Carr and Alias
    Once the shooting started and the adrenalin was pumping it seems perfectly possible to me that someone shot Breen while he was trying to surrender. Men do not always follow the plan under stress.
    So I see no reason why Smithwick could not conclude that Breen was indeed shot outside the car.
    You could say ‘the heat of battle only it really wasn’t a battle.’

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  23. Gopher (profile) says:

    What is disturbing is in 2013 a FF politician cant say Northern Ireland whilst railing against Garda collusion. It will be quite ironic that ones own indoctrination is going to aid in subverting the state. Think politicians in the Republic need to realize they are playing for keeps now.

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  24. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Dec, I suggest picking a point of interest and then just read a section of the report (it should give you a sense of his meticulous reasoning). Smithwick comes to systematic inclusions/exclusions of various scenarios depending on whether they corroborate between separate sources.

    So the ASU’s information starts weak because they don’t appear in front of him, but some members of his team. But he accepts the validity of some of their account because it is corroborated elsewhere. It’s not done on trust or blind faith.

    He excludes not the whole note, or their verbal accounts fto his team who travel north to them the ASU members, just the version offered by the former IRA of the actual killings because those details are not borne out: one by an eye witness account, two the autopsy report of how they died, and three the presence of a white hanky on the ground near the car.

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  25. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Before I go to bed John, what did you make of the radio signal traffic evidence?

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  26. Alias (profile) says:

    “Once the shooting started and the adrenalin was pumping it seems perfectly possible to me that someone shot Breen while he was trying to surrender.”

    Well, the autopsy shows that he was shot 6 times in the back of the head at close range so I don’t think there is any reasonable that the intention was to murder him. Also, the two RUC officers were unarmed so “the shooting started” when PIRA started it.

    The point of contention is Smithwick’s view that the intention was to kidnap and interrogate them as part of an ISU operation that, apparently, the ISU had no part in…

    You’d box them in using at least 3 cars if you want to kidnap them from a moving car (the same as you do when arresting folks) and I think these guys would know that. On the other hand, you don’t have any other car if the intent is to ambush since, rather obviously, you’d be in each other’s’ line of fire.

    Lastly, it is just nonsense to claim that PIRA would deem these men so important to them that they would go to such elaborate lengths and planning to acquire information from them only to change tack mid-operation and kill people deemed do immensely important.

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  27. John Ó Néill (profile) says:

    There’s not much can be said about it, Mick. It’s like a blank scrabble tile. No record of what the ‘signals’ were or any overheard chatter. Remember, the final proposed collusive act is at an unknown time, by persons unknown. That’s handy for building a story around it.

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  28. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Alias
    “High up on the back of the head there was a
    small circular entrance wound,”
    That is the only mention I can see of his being shot in the back of the head,not 6 times but once. Did I miss a bit?
    So shot initially in the car, he gets out waves his white handkerchief, is shot again by someone who has lost control of themselves and then given the coup de grace with one bullet to the back of the head.
    That fits the facts and all it takes is one guy to stray from the plan.

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  29. Alias (profile) says:

    You’re correct. One shot to the back of Breen’s head at close range, not 6. However, the point is unaltered: the intent of firing that shot was to kill him. Witness Maurita Halpin said that Mr Breen had tried to surrender to his attackers but was shot anyway.

    So, why didn’t they kidnap him when he surrendered to them if that was their intent? It’s clearly nonsense to claim that was their intent.

    Another witness Packie O’Hanlon told the Tribunal that “all got into the van, and, as they were exiting the area, they let out a big roar like “hurray”, or whatever, and that was it.”

    Now why would the PIRA gang members cheer loudly if they had botched an attempted kidnapping and would not be able to deliver the targets for interrogation? They cheered loudly because they had successfully carried out their operation, not botched it.

    They thoroughly enjoyed the double murder, particularly shooting an unarmed man in the back of his head as he lay on the ground, and congratulated themselves on a job well done.

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  30. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    I believe it was Mark Urban in “Big Boys’ Rules” who claimed that the information for the Loughgall ambush came from the bugging of an IRA safe house. Now, it is possible that this was just a story that was fed to him to cover up a mole within the IRA. If it was a mole, it is doubtful that either of the two would have known his identity unless they were directly running him. If the information came from technical sources, and if the RUC Special Branch was taking proper precautions, the exact source of the information would not necessarily have been known to the detectives. So even if the ambush had gone “properly” and Breen been extracted alive and tortured, the IRA still might not have gotten the information they wanted.

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  31. aquifer (profile) says:

    Sinn Fein’s efforts to arrest and handcuff the truth are failing.

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  32. BarneyT (profile) says:

    The mind boggles. To leave Dundalk and end up on the Edenappa Road would take some diversion. They’d have to leave the main Dublin road, which was a single lane carriageway\country road at the time, divert left, veer right following the railway line towards the border. The Edanappa road is full of dips and potential hiding places. It is remote. At the other end of it, is Jonesboro which would have to be navigated, and they would perhaps then descend towards the Dublin Road, crossing back into the Republic and then continue tracking north to the “safe” haven of Newry.

    The main road would have been the safest route back to the North. They could perhaps have taken the Armagh road out of Dundalk, which compared to Edenappa was more urbanised at the time and perhaps safer. They could have tracked towards Forkill and the proximity of the barracks and army activity could have protected them. It would also have given them access to a better Newry\Forkill road, but then again, 10 years previous, police were blown off that road near Chambries. That and other events made travel by road a zero option. The army travelled by air…the most tooled up units chose not to take to the road.

    I cannot fathom why they took the route they did. I can count four routes open to them, and the Edenappa and Faughart\Carrickbroad route should have been dismissed immediately, leaving the main Dublin road or via Forkill. Add to this the fact they were unarmed? Its crazy..

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  33. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Alias
    “So, why didn’t they kidnap him when he surrendered to them if that was their intent? It’s clearly nonsense to claim that was their intent.”
    You may be right. The IRA personnel did state that the objective should be to ensure they did not escape. Capture if possible but do not allow escape.
    Smithwick seems to feel the main objective was capture and questioning of Breen,but perhaps that was considered a bonus,as long as he ended up dead one way the other.

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  34. cynic2 (profile) says:

    See that Jean MC Conville it was that women’s own fault. Living in a flat in Divis right beside themuns in the IRA! She was asking for trouible . And her a former Proddie too. And havin ten childer and bringin them up as Catholic s to be oppressed by the Orange order thereby colludin in the Unionist war machine.

    They really had no alternative but to kill her. She gave them no choice.I mean just look at her forcing that poor girl Price to drive her down south knowing they going to disappear her, shoot her in the head and bury her for 40 years. Puttin all that psychological pressure on the poor girl.

    Yes it doesn’t bear thinking about what she put that poor girl through and the man who had to order it and the boys with the shovels. She just showed a total lack of consideration for anybody.

    And now she has poor saintly Mr Adams is gettin all the balm for it and him the saviour of Ireland and despite him claimin he next to to Nelson Mandela .

    Has she no shame?

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  35. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Barney,

    So, tell us, why do you think on that day in particular he should have stuck to the main road?

    We know he travelled extensively in the south between Garda stations, and that meetings were only confirmed at the last minute in order to avoid detection.

    We also know they could not take arms over the border or use official or protected vehicles. And we know he varied his routes. Are you saying he should not have done so?

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  36. Barnshee (profile) says:

    I remain baffled as to why they were unarmed

    Were there rules involved here precluding arming themselves?

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  37. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    It was a condition of the terms allowed under the new arrangements, which in turn were enabled by the AIA.

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  38. Barnshee (profile) says:

    “It was a condition of the terms allowed under the new arrangements, which in turn were enabled by the AIA.”

    Sue- sue and sue again

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  39. foyle observer (profile) says:

    Cynic,

    Thoughts on Lee Clegg? In your own time please.

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  40. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    AGS, no doubt under direct orders from Leinster House, would not permit armed police from NI entering the Republic when required to do so to attend (mutually beneficial) meetings with Gardai – despite the much lauded enhancement of cross-border security cooperation following the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

    I understand the RUC had offered to arrange being escorted by Guards south of the border to ensure the security of both themselves and their personal protection weapons. This offer was declined.

    Similarly the Guards coming north for the meetings was not deemed appropriate due to ‘sensitivities’, again mainly emanating from south of the border.

    Putting security operations in place north, and I suppose south, of the border to provide cover for RUC travelling to meetings were apparently also deemed to infringe on the selfsame ‘sensitivities’.

    Concerns about drawing too much public attention to AGS-RUC cooperation from a certain constituency perhaps?

    Given that attacks had occurred on many roads in the area, including the main north-south route, left the police, required as they were to meet AGS, the only option to vary their routes to and from Dundalk.

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  41. streetlegal (profile) says:

    British Intelligence has all of the documentation that explains all of these cases on file. It also has detailed documentation on the involvement of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams in Provisional IRA activities during the 1970s and 80s. It also has detailed documentation on Peter Robinson’s activities with the Third Force and other matters. Documentation which if released would result in an immediate collapse of the Stormont Executive. This is why all this talk of truth commissions is absolutely a non-runner and all of the key players know it.

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  42. Barnshee (profile) says:

    FO

    “Thoughts on Lee Clegg? In your own time please.”

    A victim of political expedience

    Little more than a teenager

    Standing in the middle of the road in an area where his fellow soldiers are attacked and murdered regularly by the local population.

    A speeding car heads for him and he shoots at the car– joyriders are killed.

    Clegg is thrown to wolves to placate republican whingers

    Then

    New forensic evidence emerged undermining claims that he fired the fatal shots, or that he aimed at the receding car. Sergeant Clegg was cleared at a retrial in 1998, although it took him another two years to overturn a lesser conviction for assault and finally clear his name.

    A form of justice prevails

    I fully accept that the army killed the joyriders.

    They did not deserve to die (I know some victims of joy riders will disagree) they did however contribute significantly to their demise by there actions.

    In the atmosphere of the time the army`s actions are understandable no knowledge of what/who was in the car

    We all wish the circumstances should have been different.

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  43. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Focus people!!

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  44. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Foyle Observer

    Taking him back into the army was wrong.

    Will that do?

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  45. cynic2 (profile) says:

    I find it odd too that when the army shot at joyriders who tried it run them down it was awful, terrible and murder but when PIRA took the same children out shot them beat them and occasionally killed them it was ‘ community justice’

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  46. Zig70 (profile) says:

    While we are all telling stories. What I’ve been told is that the Guards weren’t respected in Dundalk, considered on the take, insurance scams and drugs. Some of them were even handed out beatings by the IRA for anti-social behaviour. The Dundalk Guards were also said to have fitted up a few S Armagh locals on false evidence. The relationship was not cosy. In saying that Louth is as republican as Armagh and many ex-prisoners lived safely there when they came out of prison and I’ve also heard it rumoured that some of the Guards used to drive down to the border and take pot shots at the British soldiers. Some of these stories I believe because of who has told me. The loughgall connection I don’t buy. I don’t believe the hype around IRA intelligence. A mixture of myth, conspiracy and PUL paranoia

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  47. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “It was a condition of the terms allowed under the new arrangements, which in turn were enabled by the AIA.”

    “Sue- sue and sue again”

    @Barnshee,

    It is standard procedure internationally for police from one country who are coordinating and consulting with a foreign police force in the latter’s country to be unarmed. The Garda might have been willing to make an exception for the RUC but FF and probably even FG would not.

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  48. Mark (profile) says:

    While we are all telling stories …..

    Reminds me of a story I read / heard about an Irish journalist driving up to Armagh to cover the story of the IRA killing of three of it’s former members / British agents who had amoung other things killed a young girl ( Margaret Perry ) after she threatened to expose them .

    The journalist in question had got lost driving up through the back roads of South Armagh . As he stopped the car , a tractor pulled up beside him and the driver asked him ” Are ye lost Jim ? ” . The journalist asked him how he knew his name . The tractor driver replied that only a local would use these roads and as he wasn’t a local , he must be a journalist . He went on to say that the Independant wouldn’t have the guts to send one of it’s reporters up so he must be working for the Irish Times whose security correspondant was called Jim Cusask .

    With that , an amazed Jim Cusask drove off ……

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  49. gendjinn (profile) says:

    cynic2 & Barnshee,

    the car was traveling away not towards them when the fatal shots were fired.

    That’s murder. Open and shut.

    I wonder if Barnshee will ever encounter the situation where an Irish person dies at the hands of the British state and it’s not completely their own fault.

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  50. paulG (profile) says:

    If you accept the MRF members claim that they arranged the McGurks bar bombing but that the intended target was an OIRA frequented bar, to make it look like an IRA bomb, to rekindle the feud, then Gilmores apology for the opinions in Smithwick, looks all the more pathetic.

    I wonder what his old comrades think now about being shoved into the front line by their handlers who then tried to bomb them (and their friends & family) in the pub afterwards!

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  51. Barnshee (profile) says:

    “I wonder if Barnshee will ever encounter the situation where an Irish person dies at the hands of the British state and it’s not completely their own fault.”

    Repeats

    “I fully accept that the army killed the joyriders.
    They did not deserve to die (I know some victims of joy riders will disagree) they did however contribute significantly to their demise by there actions.”

    Testosterone fueled joyrider drives car at testosterone fueled soldier- soldiers shoots

    “In the atmosphere of the time the army`s actions are understandable– no knowledge of what/who was in the car

    We all wish the circumstances should have been different.”

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  52. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Is there not a bit of angels on pinheads about this debate over whether the victims tried to “surrender” before they were murdered or whether they were just murdered?

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  53. paulG (profile) says:

    MU

    Indeed there is. As with many of those conflict situations, they were never going to be offered a way out and they knew it.

    This is merely a silly attempt to sully SF in the eyes of un-imformed southern voters.

    Similar to the deliberate misunderstanding of GA’s valid point that the RUC men’s lax security arrangements meant that no Garda collusion was required, rather than any attempt to blame the men for their own deaths (for which the IRA are proud to claim themselves)

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  54. Alias (profile) says:

    It’s relevant to the claim that the purpose of the ambush was to abduct and interrogate Mr Breen rather than to murder him. Abduction is taking someone against his will and surrender is the absence of resistance. His surrender would have made it easier to abduct him, not requiring the abortion of that supposed plan.

    The gang members attempted to explain why Mr Breen was lying face down on the road by claiming they had removed his dead body from the car to search it. This was shown to be lies by the autopsy report showing a bullet wound to the back of his head at close range.

    Further, it is shown to be lies by the failure to remove Mr Buchanan’s body from the car for the same purpose. The gang members told Judge Smithwick they removed “two diaries […] a brief case containing documents, including religious tracts, and an electronic pager.”

    But it raises the question, irrespective of the lying, what were they searching for and who told them that the two RUC officers would have it? They may have been able to identify that RUC officer were visiting Dundalk from observation but they wouldn’t have been able to identify the purpose of the visit without an inside informant.

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  55. paulG (profile) says:

    They would have searched them for documents and weapons as a matter of course, as long as they had the time to do it.

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  56. Alias (profile) says:

    “as a matter of course”

    As a matter of your speculation – unless you have statistics to support that claim.

    It is a very poor substitute for the information they were searching for given that they told Judge Smithwick the purpose was “to take away and question the occupants”.

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  57. paulG (profile) says:

    Many weapons were taken from shot security forces, albeit in the minority of cases where it was possible. Francis Hughes springs to mind.

    Even if the IRA knew they were unarmed, they would still have wanted the documents from the meeting.

    The IRA may well have had a Garda mole but there is no proof there.

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  58. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Mainland Ulsterman
    “Is there not a bit of angels on pinheads about this debate over whether the victims tried to “surrender” before they were murdered or whether they were just murdered?”
    You could say so, and they would have surely ended up dead if they had surrendered or been captured anyway.
    But I think it is relevant in that the IRA personnel volunteered to give this evidence to Smithwick.
    So if you believe the other evidence which suggests Breen was shot trying to surrender, then the IRA version is lies.
    Big deal you might say. but I think if they cannot give a truthful account of events in this situation it highlights the difficulties ahead for any future ‘truth commission’
    That aside, surely the families deserve the full truth however distressing it may be?

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  59. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    paulG,
    Though I would say it’s hard to sully SF more than they have already done so themselves. Their discomfort is to be enjoyed here. My point was just that however SF-IRA murdered them, they murdered them and are still trying to spuriously justify it. Let’s not lose sight of that. That the court also found it was with Garda collusion is obviously very significant too but is a separate point – and it seems (though I’ve not read everything), it doesn’t hang purely on the veracity of otherwise of the IRA account of events.

    Presumably not much weight was put on anything the IRA might say about this incident, given its culture of, well, lying rather a lot, as well as its stated policy of looking after its own interests above all else when “co-operating” with the justice process. Nothing new about that though.

    We didn’t need to see this Smithwick tribunal’s findings to realise SF-IRA’s dishonesty poses massive challenges for any public truth recovery process.

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  60. tacapall (profile) says:

    “Let’s not lose sight of that. That the court also found it was with Garda collusion is obviously very significant too but is a separate point”

    What court was this ? Im sure you could point out factual evidence that your imaginary court found of collusion.

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  61. gendjinn (profile) says:

    Barnshee,

    A speeding car heads for him and he shoots at the car– joyriders are killed.

    The car was driving away from the soldiers when they fired the fatal shots. By the British army’s own rules this constitutes murder, not “killing”.

    The fact they faked a broken limb to justify their actions speaks to the solider’s awareness of their guilt.

    The diorama celebrating the murder in the local units mess i even more revealing about the army’s attitude to murdering local kids.

    You are still blaming the kids for being murdered by British soliders. Despite what you’ve “repeated”.

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  62. Barnshee (profile) says:

    “The car was driving away from the soldiers when they fired the fatal shots. By the British army’s own rules this constitutes murder, not “killing””

    Disputed at the subsequent successful appeal

    “The diorama celebrating the murder in the local units mess i even more revealing about the army’s attitude to murdering local kids. ”

    Disgraceful behaviour

    “You are still blaming the kids for being murdered by British soliders. Despite what you’ve “repeated”.

    Nope– simply reminding you of the well known doctrine of “contributory negligence” (recently used by Gerry to the IRA/ RUC murders)

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  63. paulG (profile) says:

    MU,

    You are free to enjoy the discomfort of your enemies.

    Clearly the IRA killed the 2 Senior RUC members, as you would expect them to do, as each had been killing members of the other (amongst other violent attacks with many other victims caught in-between) during their previous 30 years of conflict.

    The level of truth from the IRA and SF has been much higher than that of the RUC and Army over the years (ref MRF & Glennane Gang). The IRA may have dropped to the level of the Army & RUC in this instance.

    A truth process, by all means. I’m sure you don’t want it at the expense of justice.

    You might find that republicans are more able to take that justice given that theirs was a struggle of huge sacrifice for little personal gain, while those from the security forces who would face justice and will have been handsomely paid, pensioned and decorated, and will never have expected to atone.

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  64. […] ‘the whole truth’, remains a matter of conjecture. Each circumstance severely strains belief in the value of information that may be offered without any means of verification. Few believe the sincerity of republicans seeking ‘truth’ for anything other than […]

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